The 2014 elections and a suspicious investigation
Turkey is fast approaching tripartite elections. There will be two elections in 2014 and another one in 2015. The first phase is the local elections that will take place in March 2014. Immediately after the local elections, the people will elect a president. These critical events have already animated the political scene. Tensions are running high.
The last local elections in Turkey took place in 2009. Although there had been some reduction in votes compared to the 2004 local elections, the incumbent party emerged victorious out of the 2009 elections. It should also be emphasized that anticipating the results of the general elections based on the percentage of votes in the local elections would not be a sound analysis. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) received 39 percent of the votes in the 2009 local election while it received 47 percent of the votes in the 2007 general elections. Nevertheless, the AK Party managed to get 58 percent of the votes in the 2010 referendum less than a year later, and 50 percent in the general elections held one year later. For the AK Party, any increase over its share of votes in the 2009 elections will be enough for success. This will mean that the AK Party needs to hold onto Ankara and Istanbul. The corruption investigation launched this week was a blatant attempt to influence the elections.
The AK Party administration blazed through similar corruption investigations in the past. Many were arrested after an investigation in the Energy Ministry. The AK Party did not really run into a whole lot of problems as a consequence of these investigations, to the extent that it was able to distance itself from the corrupt civil servants. In fact, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strongest argument in his claim of being different from the previous administrations was his commitment to fighting corruption.
What separated this particular investigation from all previous ones is that many people are able see this investigation for what it is – namely a smear campaign intended to tip the scales in the upcoming elections. This was blatantly clear even to the international media.
A number of civil servants and businessmen were arrested in an investigation that neither the interior minister nor his top-level aids knew anything about. The fact that dozens of people, charged with allegations from a number of very different cases, were arrested during the same operation as if the cases were related to each other raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the charges.
These allegations, which were raised after a month of discussions about the Gülen movement, were, rightly so, perceived not only as a fight against corruption, but also a fight against Erdoğan. This perception will inevitably lead to conversations about political engineering during elections instead of conversations about transparency and the fight against corruption. Undoubtedly, the details of this fishing expedition will emerge in the coming days. In their first press release after the arrests, the administration stated that they supported the judiciary and that they would cooperate with the investigation. When it becomes clear that this investigation was politically motivated and that it was an attempt to steer the results of the upcoming elections, the tone of the conversation will certainly change. What will become clear at that point will be Erdoğan’s commitment and capability of fighting against the contenders for tutelage.